The next few recipes require the longest fermentation. In the process, they develop deep, deep flavor, a creamy texture, a beautifully textured crumb, and a crackling crust. To make them, first you need to make a sourdough starter, which is a bit of a project. Other books will tell you that you can make a great starter in less time. I would say that with shorter methods you can make a good starter, but not a great one. This formula, which requires at least 24 days to mature, takes long, cold fermentation to new heights, and that difference shows in the bread.
You read it right. I find that it takes 24 days for my sourdough starter (in baker speak, a levain) to be really good. If that sounds daunting, look at it his way: you only have to make a sourdough starter once, and then you only have to feed it every few days, just like you’d water a houseplant. With proper care and feeding, a sourdough “mother” can last forever. If you continue to maintain it properly, by the end of about three months you will notice even more improvement in flavor, texture, and the leavening power. I wanted to recommend letting it develop for a full 90 days, but it seemed cruel to ask you to wait that long. It will be nicely bake-able at 24 days, but a more mature sourdough will give more delicious results.
I call for local organic grapes because they don’t require rinsing, which would wash away the wild yeasts that naturally occur on grape skins. And, of course, the activity of yeast is ultimately what makes a starter.
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